Why We Need our Emotions to be Complete

17 May 2009. 6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 10, 25-28; Psalm 98; 1 Jn 4, 7-10; John 15, 9-17

Note: there is an alternative homily for this Sunday. It’s the article before this post.

Jesus said that in order for our joy to be complete, we must love one another as He loved us, as a friend who offers one’s life for another. We all know this; we hear it more than a dozen times. We are convinced of this because God said it. But we all know what makes loving difficult and equally challenging: we would have to deal with unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions. Oftentimes, our feelings often lead us into trouble and disruptive behavior. Our emotions often have a mind of its own, and to some degree we are at their mercy. We find ourselves carried away by some sudden surge of feeling such as anger, fear, sexual passion, jealousy, revenge, loneliness, anxiety, etc. These emotions are strong, and for those who are emotionally underdeveloped, these feelings become irrational and uncontrollable. That is why many Christians view emotions as negative because they are elusive to the voice of reason. It can run wild that it can be very destructive of our relationships with ourselves, the community and God. How many relationships have been destroyed by rage, jealousy and revenge? You just have to look at the themes of many television soap operas or action-packed films. For many this has been the reason for mortification of the senses and self-denial especially to all sexual feelings and fantasies. Does this mean therefore that emotions, especially the unpleasant ones, are not good? God has created us with these feelings, are we saying that God has created something that is evil? Are we getting to be anti-human or are we getting into the dualistic thought that our body is evil and the spirit is good? My experience as a formator to Jesuit scholastics as well as my personal experience in formation (because God is continually forming us) is that we need to integrate our emotions into our personality and humanity so that we could appreciate their contribution to living a moral life — and living completely and joyfully.

The word, e-motion, means that it is an impulse to act, a source within us that makes us move. Anger moves us to defend ourselves or to attack; physically, the body releases adrenaline and we are on a ‘high’ for a vigorous activity. Fear warns of danger, so we either fight or flee. And thus, our emotions act must faster and swifter than our rational mind, almost an automatic reaction. And we need this for our survival. Think if we are in danger, and there is no emotion of fear: our predator would kill us right away because we still “thinking”. Think of many people who has suppressed their emotions that they find it difficult to identify whether they are in love; and so for the longest time they have been ‘thinking about it’. And when they discovered that they are indeed in love, they are too late. But our emotions feed on our intelligence at the same time as our rationality which contributes information. Such that with both information and what we feel, we are able to make decisions in our lives. The rational mind refines and often vetoes the input of our emotions. Emotions are as essential to thought as thought is essential to emotions, as William Cosgrave said in his article, “Our Emotional Life: Its Contribution to Right Living”.

We need two vital emotions to be productive by helping us use fully our talents and abilities: the ability to delay gratification and to persist in our goals despite failures and setbacks and the tendency to give up the struggle. Those who have acquired these skills become more successful because they will use their natural abilities better. Those who are optimistic and hopeful have been found to do better than someone who is always pessimistic and negative. Think for example if you are into sports or the arts: if you want instant gratification, you will never reach your goals. People thought that the arts is without discipline. Think again: we practice whether we feel like it or not. We have to practice regularly.

Another example is familiar to us. Empathy is an emotional ability that helps us become sensitive to the feelings of others. It is about understanding and appreciating our humanity, as Peter said in the first reading to Cornelius, “I am also a human being” — in other words, don’t put yourself at my feet, I understand you because I am human too. Those who are able to empathize succeed in relationships, they will be more outgoing, in-tune with others, and they become more popular and well-liked. They have more friends. It is easier for them to care for another and this emotional ability will shape their moral lives. Thus one’s level of empathy has a strong connection with one’s level of caring, compassion, other-centeredness. And in faith life, there are many, including myself, who have been convinced of our faith because of people who empathize with my humanity.

Those who have manage their angers well and maturely, become people who take social justice seriously. Those who are able to manage their relationships well, become people who love maturely and competently. They will become great leaders because they will be able to relate to people who are difficult, and they would persist in fulfilling their duties despite failures. They become successful. And thus, they are able to live completely and happily.

Published by Jboy Gonzales SJ

TV/Digital host: Kape't Pandasal. Vlog: YT On the Line. Environment, Youth Formation. Music. Leadership. Always dancing to a different drum.

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